Catapult Challenge Fall 2020

SILAB Fall 20 Catapult Challenge Launches from Around the World

11/25/20 update:

And the winners are:  Everyone!

The judges were so impressed with all 9 entries, after scoring the top 3 in a close race, they decided to award the remaining  6 teams a $25 Starbucks gift certificate for all the hard work.

Team 1: Erin Rehm

Team 2: Martin Sinclair

Team 3: Michelle Lin, Danielle Nicole Fakler

First Place $300 Team 4: ShuLan Holmes-Farley

Third Place $100 Team 5: Liam Jackson, Zach Beever

Second Place $200 Team 6: Odin Francis

Team 7: Elaina Brooks

Team 8: Jakub Zolkos, Axel S. Toro Vega

Team 9: Joseph Hall

Thank you to our judges: Senior Associate Dean Rich Lally, BTEC Executive Director, Diane Joseph-Mccarthy, Photonics Center Director Thomas Bifano and Bella Khul, ECE 2020, who won several competitions as a SILAB user.

We may do this again in the Spring or, maybe, you have another idea for a challenge?????

Videos of each team’s catapult can be found below!

Team 1: Erin Rehm


Team 2: Martin Sinclair


Team 3: Michelle Lin and Danielle Nicole Fakler


Team 4: ShuLan Holmes Farley


Team 5: Liam Jackson and Zach Beever

Team 6: Odin Francis


Team 7: Elaina Brooks


Team 8: Jakub Zolkos, Axel S. Toro Vega


Team 9: Joseph Hall

This year, we have a pandemic edition to bring the challenge to you, in the comfort of your own room (where you’ve already been spending all of the hours of the day but this time you’ll have the additional comfort of a mini catapult at your bedside table).

The final goal isn’t distance or accuracy (you don’t need to be that accurate if your target – your roommate – is only  6 feet away from you). Instead, you’ll be judged on creativity, design and resourcefulness. 

Our only rules are that the catapult fits within a space that is 6″x6″x6″ and no SILAB lab stock or tools can be used – you can only use materials and objects you find within your living space. Some suggestions for materials to get your creative gears going include pencils, bottle caps, empty tissue or shoe boxes, rubber bands, a cute little trinket you bought at a garage sale that you’ve desperately been trying to find a use for. We highly encourage you to be as creative and unique as possible with the materials you use to build your catapult.


Registration must be done by SIGN UP EXTENDED TO WEDNESDAY, 10/28 at 5pm (You can still sign up and submit an entry.  We just needed to know people were interested.  All the info is here.)

(You need to use you “” address to access the form.)

32 people have signed up!!!!!!!!  Most are single teams.

We suggest students work individually but you can have one partner.  Only College of Engineering students with a BU email address will be able to access the form.  Students both on campus and learning remotely can participate! This competition is for Engineering students and each team must have at least one person from the College of Engineering.  Since no one is working in the lab, you do not need to have SILAB training.

UPDATE:  FINAL SUBMISSION DEADLINE  moved to midnight Monday November 16th!!!!
Prize winners will be revealed on *Monday November 23th*.  1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners win $300, $200, and $100 (respectively)!!!

Submission will involve sending in a 30-second-long demo video (preferably .mp4 or .mov) of your catapult in action along with action shots of your catapult at different angles and short description detailing the materials you used and trigger and launching mechanism of your catapult.  After we know who registered,  we may contact you with more details on the submission.

We’ll put all submissions up on the SILAB website and offer BU students the option to vote for their favorite catapult! (Disclaimer: the popularity vote isn’t tied to the cash prizes, those will be determined by appointed BU staff and faculty, but it will give you bragging rights).

10/21/20 More Details and Answers to Questions

Entrants can click here to go to the Judging Rubric

As you can see from the Judging Rubric above, creativity holds the greatest weight of the categories being considered for judging. With that in mind, there’s nothing stopping you from buying materials for your catapult (such as a catapult kit) or using resources that are at your disposal that may not be accessible to other students (such as a 3D printer or machinery and power tools) but we did have resourcefulness in mind when we thought of this competition. So the materials and tools you use are entirely up to your discretion but you may not get as many points, particularly in terms of creativity, if you use conventional materials. Stretch your imagination!!

One other clarification regarding the dimensions of your catapult – the catapult must be within the boundary of a 6” cube before you launch your object. So it’s okay if your launching mechanism extends beyond the limits during or after launch!

Also, here’s some more specifications about what you’ll need to submit:

For your demonstrations, you’ll need to launch a quarter. Your video should be no longer than 30 seconds and should include at least two launches – one with a full view of both your catapult launching and the landing position of the quarter, and one with a closeup of your catapult showing the triggering mechanism in action. Feel free to include other demos in your video (i.e. the launch and/or the trigger in slow motion; launching something other than a quarter that creates a cool effect when launched, like confetti or soup or jello (disclaimer: we’re not liable for any mess you create in the process of your launch or your mom yelling at you for said mess that was created)).

You’ll need to also submit a few photos of your catapult as well. You can submit a maximum of 15 photos but don’t feel like you need to reach that maximum! Just include everything that you feel is necessary for us to get a good look at your catapult and reveals information we might not have seen in the video). 

Update *** 11/2 You’re required to include a picture of each dimension of your catapult measured with a ruler, a closeup of your triggering mechanism, and the drawing of your design (a picture of either a hand drawing or the digital drawing).***

The rest of these aren’t requirements, just suggestions – it’s completely up to your discretion to include everything you’d like us to know and see to create a full image of what your catapult is like and how it functions in reality: any other perspective that you think is important that was missed in the dimension pics; a picture of the catapult’s position before and after the launch, a closeup of any other fun details of your catapult. We’re not including launching distance as part of the judging criteria this year partially because we can’t assume that everyone owns a tape measure at home but also because we don’t trust you to be truthful… That said, if you have a tape measure or other means of measuring launch distance, feel free to include a shot showing where and how far your quarter landed. You’re also welcome to come up with a more creative way to measure your launch distance and include that in your pictures (you can measure distance in number of A4 papers, or number of bananas or number of roommates).

The last requirement is a description of your catapult. Keep in mind that your writing skills aren’t going to be judged as much as the catapult itself but try to be fun and creative with this portion too! Think of this description as an advertisement for your catapult and really try to sell us on the concept. Make sure you include a list of the materials you used and a description of how the triggering mechanism works

Update 11/8/20: How to submit the entry:

Keep all of the parts of your submission (video, pictures, and document with description) in a single folder that you compress before submitting it as a single zipped file to (In order to compress your folder, right click the folder and select “Compress” for macs or select “send to” => “Compressed (zipped) folder” for pcs).


If the zipped/compressed folder with the catapult submission files are too large to send through email. You don’t have to try and compress your files but instead upload them to a folder on your google drive.

Once you have everything together, submit the link to your google drive folder through this form:

Please make sure that when you send the link that you give us permission to view everything in the folder! As always, email if you have any questions or suggestions.

We’ve received some feedback from students expressing their enthusiasm for this competition and we’re so excited to see whatever comes up with! We also know that your lives can be pretty busy as students and you may have other priorities. If you’re interested in building a catapult but end up sidetracked, still submit your work-in-progress! Also, if you finally finish building your catapult and you go to launch it on the day of submission, still send us what you have!! This is competition is first and foremost about the idea and we’d love to see how your wonderful brains think! The main judging criteria that you may not get full points for is the “Build Quality” of your catapult. If you’re a little embarrassed about failing to create but still want to submit and get some feedback from the judges about your concept, you can tell us to not to upload your submission to the SILAB website when you email us the various parts of your submission.

As always, make sure to keep your safety in mind when building your catapults, and follow all school safety guidelines. 

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to